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Happy birthday, Dad, if you were with us, you’d be 99 today!

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001 My dad and I on my wedding day. br7 My sister and I with our dad.

It’s been nearly ten years since my father passed away, and on the one hand, it seems like much longer, and yet on the other, it seems like I just spoke with him last week. Losing a parent is one of those surreal experiences that nobody is really ready for whether at age thirty or age fifty. There’s always unresolved issues left behind and it’s easy to wonder what they’d think of you now. Our memories of our family keep us in touch with the past, reminding us of who we are and where we came from, and who we hope to become. Below is a picture of my dad and mom a year before World War II. How scary it must have been living during World War II and having their first child before the end of the war. The other picture below is of my dad when I was a little girl. I remember thinking that he was so strong and handsome and would always take care of me.

br6     br9

It’s interesting because I’m sure that my memories of my father are not the memories my brother or sister have him, or even the memories his grandchildren have of him. It seems when we were growing up, he was so busy trying to make a living for the family, we weren’t that close to one another. But when the grandchildren came, he had more time to share with them. Below are his grandchildren. I remember they had many memories of camping with Grandpa and Grandma at Oak Island, as well as eating the fresh vegetables that came from Grandpa’s garden. The garden seems a good metaphor for the family because both need love and nurturing in order to thrive.

br12 br11br10

br4   6

This is a picture of the whole family spending Thanksgiving together–well, my brother is taking the picture and our daughter wasn’t born yet. The other picture is of my dad and my daughter, who is the youngest of the grandchildren.  I do think  how proud my dad would be to see how his kids and his grandkids turned out. I  like to think  he and my mother are looking down from heaven and smiling at the family.

My father came from Arkansas to California during the depression. On his journey to California he rode the trains looking for work and he’d get off a train when it slowed down. He’d be real dirty so he’d wash up at the hobo camps and maybe get something to eat there.  He picked fruit or cotton or corn to earn a little money as he traveled the rails. He was turned away at the border because California didn’t want anymore people there who didn’t have a job. He had to go back and sneak in at Needles, California–the only place that wasn’t guarded along the Arizona border. When he finally got into California, he got a job at the sugar mill in the Bay Area, then he went back to Arkansas and got my mom. They settled in California and raised their family there and their kids raised their children there, too.

Many of the family no longer lives in California. Once my dad died, the roots in the garden weren’t as strong. At the end of his life, my dad told me some of his stories and I wrote them down, but I waited a little too late and didn’t get nearly as many stories as I’d have liked. I guess my takeaway is that time goes so fast and we should love and nourish our families as much as possible. And I’d like to say, “Happy birthday, Dad, your life wasn’t easy but you did a lot with what you had. Your family is proud of you and hope that you are proud of us as well!

We love you!

Bren

Please feel free to leave a comment if you’d like.

2 Responses to “Happy birthday, Dad, if you were with us, you’d be 99 today!”

  1. Steve says:

    Wonderful Tribute to a man and the memories that he leaves behind…

  2. brendastinnett says:

    Still miss you, Dad.

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